Monday, November 22, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

After months of waiting and guessing, the first part of the last movie of the Harry Potter saga is finally here. As soon as I found out the timings of the movie and got together some friends, I managed to get permission from my parents, and went off to the cinema.

My heart was fluttering slightly when by the time the movie started, and with good reason too. The starting scene showed Snape walking into Voldemort’s meeting place; the Malfoy Manor has a ghoulish yet majestic look about it. There, Snape lets out the real plan of Harry’s final departure from his Uncle’s place in Privet Drive. Voldemort takes Lucius Malfoy’s wand, which he thinks would help him kill Harry. The meeting ends with Voldemort killing Charity Burbage, Hogwart’s former professor of Muggle Studies. The snake, Nagini, makes a delicious (eww!) dinner out of her.

In the meantime, Harry has convinced his Uncle and Aunt to leave Privet Drive for good. While he is wandering about the empty house, Hermione, Ron, Fred, George, Lupin, Mad-Eye Moody and other members of the Order of the Phoenix turn up all of a sudden. After a brief squabble with Harry, Hermione rips off some of his hair and puts it in the Polyjuice potion. In minutes, seven Harrys appear in the place of the others. The ploy is an attempt to baffle Voldemort or his Death-Eaters in case anyone is out there. False trails had been leaked in the Ministry of Magic about the date and time of Harry’s departure. But someone has betrayed them, and they are surrounded by Death-Eaters. At this point, a number of changes have been made from the book. But the major points remain the same, and Harry (the real one) and Hagrid land in Ron’s house. One by one the rest of them appear, George with a ear cut off, and Hedwig and Mad-Eye dead.

It is during Bill and Fleur’s wedding that the actual movie starts. With the Minister having been killed and the Ministry taken, the Death-Eaters attack. Ron, Harry and Hermione disapparate in a hurry, and thus begins their final adventure.

By and large, the movie has stuck to the book. However, there are some theatrical adaptations. The feel of romance is much more prominent in the movie than in the book. It even has some elements of action thrillers. By the time Harry and Hermione had returned from Godric’s Hollow after their close encounter with Nagini, I was hyperventilating.

A very nice part of the visual effects was when Hermione was reading out the story of the Three Brothers form The Tales of Beedle the Bard. The entire episode was shown in silhouettes, and a background of twilight added to the mystic nature of the show. 

I have always felt that the choice of actors for the Harry potter movies was excellent. After watching this movie, I am more than ever convinced that no one other than these very actors could have done better. Harry is just Harry, slightly headstrong, sometimes pushy, and usually faithful to friends, but with no well-defined talent or character as such. Ron is eternally awkward and very often ridiculous, but is probably the best kind of friend one can wish for. And Hermione! She just seems to grow prettier every day! She most characteristically carries books with her on the most life-threatening journey possible. Emma Watson has positively outshone herself in all the subtle expressions and feelings that keep flashing across her face throughout the movie. Other than these three, others have brought out their characters well, though most of this film circles around the trio. A new addition to the Harry potter crew is Rhys Ifans, who plays the role of Xenophilius Lovegood, Luna’s father. Had I not seen him act, I wouldn’t have believed that anyone could possibly act that eccentrically! Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort is quite fearsome. A lot of the credit would go to the make-up artists. They have positively done a good job.

The problem with movies made from books is that a lot of the details have to be omitted. Little things which, apparently of no great consequence, have made Harry Potter what it is. For those who have read the books, and read them well, the movies are bound to be disappointing. Those who have laughed at every Weasley joke, sympathized with Ron when Hermione got mad with him and cried with them all at their slightest pain find the movies sadly lacking in such details. The last movie, though made in two parts, suffers from the same problem.

Most parts of the movie plays in a dull gray morning background. The average spirit of the people has been very well brought out in the misty surroundings. The haunting music that sometimes rings in the background goes well with the general air of hopelessness and desolation that is closing in. Certain parts of the movie have been very well-directed, as in the portrayal of the hostile feelings growing in between Ron and the other two, and the last torture that Ron faced before he was able to destroy the locket horcrux. Even the part which shows Bellatrix Lestrange torturing Hermione was quite horrifyingly real.  I could almost feel her pain myself.

The most touching part of the movie is undoubtedly the death of Dobby. Dobby’s last sigh was ringing in my ears long after I left the movie hall. I think that J.K. Rowling has been unnecessarily cruel with Dobby. He should not have died. Not Dobby.

The first part ends with Voldemort stealing the Elder wand from Dumbledore’s grave, and casting a powerful spell into the sky. Harry Potter movies have never been great by themselves. It is really the storyline that carries the entire thing off so decently. It is no different for this movie. But certainly, this one is an improvement when compared to The Half-Blood Prince. This movie is not one of the best movies that I have watched, but I would not have liked to give this one a miss either. The two hours spent at the cinema were not spent in vain. I will be waiting for the last part of this last movie eagerly. Let’s see how things turn out. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fun with waste

This year, the Children’s Day celebration in our school was a bit different. There was the usual quota of dances and plays and picnic. But the real fun began after all this was over. A rather unusual competition was held. Each house from each class was asked to make something out of waste materials. When we initially heard of this, we were rather irritated. How could we possibly make anything presentable out of discarded materials? I am the leader of the Violet House of our class, but I washed my hands of the matter entirely. Then one of the other girls took charge. She chalked out a very innovative idea. We were going to make Humpty-Dumpties spending a day out on the beach. This caught my attention, and slowly my interest in the competition revived.

I shall not go into all the planning and fighting and bossing that went on in the days before the competition. On the day of the competition, this Saturday, we went to school with all the materials. To tell the truth, I had forgotten all about it the previous day, and remembered about the green wrapping paper that I was supposed to bring only at the gate of the school. Fortunately, I had money with me, and some of the roadside shops had already opened. I managed to get some sellotape and had to make do with some green marble paper. My friend Srimoyee is a wonderful craftsman. She had made a beautiful background of the setting sun on the sea on a used sheet of thermocol.  She had also made some beach shades by winding thread around a used pen’s refill. There was even a volley ball net made with intricate designs out of that same thread. This one was made by her aunt though. But what was most remarkable was that she had ever so carefully drilled holes into seven eggs, taken the yolk out, washed the shells clean and painted them into Humpty Dumpties! We were so amused and also amazed when we first saw them! The poor girl had had to work late into the night to do all that work.

All the different houses chose their own space to work in. The Violet house girls of our class were the fastest, and bagged the best space available; a raised platform right outside our school library. One of the girls had brought a huge cardboard box which once contained their new T.V. That became the base of our beach. One of my friends and I acquired some sand from the garden next to the convent, and that formed our beach. Soon, all of us were very deeply engrossed in our work. We had been given one hour, but we could easily bet on an extra half hour. I along with one of the girls started making some trees for our beach. At first we were a bit confused about how we could make them, but then I had a sudden brainwave. We used old refills (Shivangi had brought a large number of those) as the trunk. The green marble paper was used to cut out circles whose edges were fringed. Then, two such circles were placed opposite to each other that it looked like two ice-cream cones stuck on the pointed sides. This was then attached to the refill and voila! Our tree was ready! We made eight such trees. In the meantime, few of the others were making beach chairs and lemonade stalls with old match boxes and used matchsticks and ice-cream sticks. A piece of torn jute sack was used as a mat, and two Dumpties were placed on them. Two more Dumpties played volleyball and two more rested on the chairs. The last one sold lemonade. We even put a piece of used lemon that one of the girls had brought on the stall! After we were done, the beach looked beautiful, and I am not saying that because we made it. Even our opponents agreed that ours was the best in class.

Violet House

The other houses had nice ideas as well. Red House depicted a village scene. Green House did a project on the theme ‘Go Green’. Gold House decorated a used pot with chocolate wrappers and coconut shells. They put a dead beetle on the pot (though Heaven alone knows why a dead beetle should be considered waste material!) and put the caption ‘Dariye achho tumi amar harir opore’! We had a good laugh trying to imagine Robi Thakur’s reactions had he seen the latest version of his poem! Some of the other classes had made pretty things too. Among numerous projects, there was one which showed the lost city of Atlantis. One was a submarine whose fans were attached to an electrical circuit and actually moved. There was the Dhamekh Stupa of Sanchi. Somebody even did a presentation of the Harappan civilization! It was amazing how many innovative ideas could come out when minds are forced to work.

Gold House

Green House
Red House

All in all, it was positively one of the best days that I have spent in all these years. The fun and laughter was there,  and add to that the anticipation of winning a competition where so much of hard work and dedication and team spirit has been put in, and your day is made.